Apologies for some of this blog being a bit technical, the sailors amongst you will love the detail and be able to picture the chaos, for the non-sailors just imagine that it’s cold and wet, you’re on a waltzer and you are having to untangle all 3 neighbours washing lines, full of washing, it’s raining with the occasional bucket of cold salty water being thrown in your face and the clothes poles are hurtling past your head and you’ll have about the same picture.
The day (10th Nov) started beautifully sunny with champagne sailing, it was the warmest and calmest the weather had been for a while. We’d all stripped off a few layers and even had suncream on our faces. The wind was from behind so the boat was fairly level and due to the lack of breeze we dropped the staysail to allow the poled out Yankie 2 and main to make the most of the breeze. On dropping the Yankie I noticed some very bad chaffe on the halyard, so just before dinner Sarah and I spent an hour whipping it to ensure the rope didn’t break all the way through. As we sat at the mast doing the repair job (imagine wrapping wax covered string round a frayed rope to strengthen it) the clouds came in and the temperature began to drop. We went gladly off watch to the warm below for dinner (pasta and sauce followed by chocolate cake, jelly and custard – my Dad would be in heaven).
Coming back up on deck at 10pm the swell had built and we were surfing some big waves, the wind had picked up and the temperature dropped even further. All started well with a beautiful clear sky and a moon that shone so brightly it was just like daytime. With the Y2 still poled out on the starboard side and the main way out over the guard rails on the port side, 2 preventer lines and a handy billy on the boom we were watching the wind speeds climb higher and higher. We started to come through a few squalls, complete with hailstones and were paying careful attention to the windspeeds, chatting about the merits of putting in a reef. Too late, the wind blew a gust of 47 knotts from behind us which blew our Yankie 2 from starboard to port, blowing the sheet and ripping the pole from the mast. Our preventers, handy billy, pole uphaul and pole downhaul held firm and although the boat was still well heeled over to port and not coming back in a hurry, we did at least have everything still attached to the boat. Rich did an amazing job on the helm, bracing himself to hold on and bring the boat back under control, he was calm, committed and in control. The pole was dragging in the water and the sail flapping like crazy on the foredeck with the sheets flogging around in the air. We all moved forward as quickly as possible (not easy when you are clipped on with your safety line!) to the pit and the foredeck. With Baz leading the team we managed to bring the Yankie under control and drop it, sail-tying it down to the deck, to lower the end of the pole that was in mid air and bring in the end that was in the sea and to untangle all the lines. During all this Rich was still doing an amazing job on the helm while Scarlet found himself in the pit with me, much to his dismay. He is not a fan of being shouted at from all angles whilst trying to untangle a mass of ropes and having sail ties either requested or thrown at you to help with your chaos – can’t imagine why he prefers the helm!
After all this we were left with just a main sail, 40 knotts of apparent wind and a speed over ground of anything from 16 to 24 knots! Ideally we would have put a reef in but without any headsail for stability and it being too windy to raise one we were left with managing the boat under a full main for the rest of the night.
This morning, still with gusts of up to 33 knots, we managed to hoist the staysail, giving us the stability we needed to put 2 reefs in the main and give the boat a bit more balance. The swell is still running big and the wind still blowing a hoolie. This is what I imagined sailing in the Southern Ocean would be like and it hasn’t let me down. It’s exciting, cold, wet and amazingly dramatic. I’m loving it.